Monte Vista closer to allowing backyard chickens

MONTE VISTA— On Tuesday, Oct 23, the planning and zoning commission met for the second time to discuss whether or not to advance consideration of an ordinance change that would allow backyard chickens within city limits. T
he commission initially heard the proposal from Monte Vista residents wanting backyard chickens in late August. But the proposed ordinance was in rough draft and changes---such as licensing requirements, care specifications, coop location and the need for consent letters from neighboring property owners before approval is given---were suggested. The new proposal was brought before the commission, which, after much discussion, was advanced to the city council session for a public hearing and consideration.
Most neighboring towns allow a limited number of backyard chickens, including Alamosa, Salida and Del Norte. Bigger cities such as Denver, Colorado Springs, Phoenix and Los Angeles also allow backyard hens.
One of the board’s initial concerns was that the allowance would add work for the city’s already overburdened ordinance officer. City Clerk Unita Vance believes the new draft ordinance covers those concerns. “The license process would allow administration staff to verify the letters of consent and location of the coop and run,” she said, which would take that work off the ordinance officer’s shoulders. “The documents would become official and kept on file---so if our code enforcement officer had issues, he would be able to pull the drawing and letters to enforce the ordinance.”
Board member Ruthanna Seger questioned whether people would go through the process of registering their chickens since Monte Vista ordinance dictates the registration and licensing of dogs within the city limits, but only 60 dogs are actually registered.  “We just don’t seem like rule followers,” she said.
“Other cities put out pamphlets about their rules and regulations, so maybe getting the word out in some way will help with compliance,” Vance responded.  
Roosters were also a concern at the commission’s last meeting. Though the original draft ordinance disallowed roosters, the commission felt the ordinance needed more preventative specifics. “With this draft ordinance, written notice could be given that would allow 10 days for a rooster’s removal,” said Vance. “If after 10 days the rooster is not removed, a citation for $100 per day can be given for every day the rooster remains on site. This would also revoke the person’s license for backyard chickens for two years.”  
Commission member Barb Sears asked what happens if a neighbor complains. Vance pointed to a section of the draft ordinance that addresses chickens as a public nuisance, which reads: “Backyard chickens … that are not kept or maintained in conformance with the requirements of this section shall be deemed a public nuisance and the owner or custodian shall be given 15 days to rectify the conditions.” Otherwise, the city can revoke the person’s license.
The draft ordinance specifies things like backyard chickens must be kept in a coop with a minimum amount of six square feet of space allotted per chicken. Adequate food and water must be provided as well as a regularly cleaned living space to control dust, odor and waste. Chickens would also be allowed to free range from dawn until dusk in an enclosed backyard. The sale of chicken meat and eggs procured form backyard chickens would be prohibited. Along with a slew of other ordinance specifications, the applicant would have to pay a one-time application fee of $40 and an additional annual fee of $10 per chicken for renewal.
City council is holding a public hearing on backyard chickens at an upcoming city council meeting. To find out when the public hearing on backyard chickens will be discussed, contact the city clerk at 852-2692.

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